THE BASICS of the Reformed Christian Faith
We believe that God created the world and everything in it, including human beings. God created a perfect world. In the beginning, there was no sin--no hatred, no disunity, and no death. But God also allowed humans to make their own choices. The first humans, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God, allowing sin to enter God's perfect world. From then on, every human has been born with sinful desires that lead to separation from God. But the story doesn't end there. God loves the world and the people in it-- so much, in fact, that he made a plan to take away the guilt of our sin. God sent his son, Jesus, into the world as a human. Jesus gave his life to pay the price for sins he didn't commit. Jesus accepted the punishment for our sins so that we don't have to. Three days after Jesus was killed, God brought Jesus to life again, defeating the power of death and evil. Jesus still lives today, eternally in heaven with God the Father. One day he will come back to earth to put an end to evil-- sin, death, and pain-- and renew all things. He will gather all who have believed in him from every time and place to live with him forever. Our faith is centered in God's love for us demonstrated in Jesus Christ, his son. When we accept Jesus' sacrifice for us and commit our lives to following him, God sees us as perfect, the way we were first created to be. We cannot manufacture such faith on our own; it is the result of God's Spirit working within us. The Reformed View of Christian Faith In the Reformed view, the final authority is the Bible--known as the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God. The Reformed perspective is centered in the overwhelming love of God toward us. We believe that God is three in one--God the father, God the son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. We believe that we are saved by grace alone through faith, not by what we think or do to earn God's favor. Our good works don't earn our salvation, but are a way to thank God for this free gift of salvation. The Reformed Church in America celebrates two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper. They remind us of God's promises to us and help us to claim those promises as our own. The RCA is confessional, which means that together we have statements of belief, called creeds and confessions. These statements guide our understanding of faith and shape its practice. The RCA is "Reformed and always reforming," earnestly seeking to know the mind of Christ as it strives to be faithful in a changing, complex, and often troubled world. The RCA's position papers on contemporary issues provide guidance to the members of the church and are a part of the church's witness in society.
We believe in the only true God (John 17:3), the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20). He created all things (Revelation 4:11) and upholds all things by the Word of His power (Hebrews 1:3). In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). He is a God of truth and without iniquity. He is just and right (Deuteronomy 32:4), and He shall judge the world (Psalm 9:8). We believe that the Godhead eternally exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are one God, having precisely the same nature, attributes, and perfections, and are worthy of precisely the same homage, confidence, and obedience (Mark 12:29; John 1:1-4; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 4:3-4).
We believe in the total deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe He is the manifestation of God in the flesh. We believe He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. We believe Him to be true God and true man (John 1:1, 1:14, 1:18; John 14:8-9; 1 Timothy 3:16).
We believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit regenerates the sinner upon belief in Christ, baptizing the believer into one body, of which Christ is the head. The Holy Spirit indwells, guides, instructs, fills, comforts, and empowers the believer for godly living (Mark 13:11; John 14:26; John 16:13; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, of God's righteousness, and of coming judgment (John 16:8-11). While we believe that the Scriptures do not teach that certain gifts have ceased, they indicate that use of the gifts vary according to the need that each gift meets. (John 16:8; 13:15; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 1:22; 4:11-12; Romans 8:9-17; 12:4-8; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 12:4-5, 12:11-13, 12:19; Galatians 5:25; Hebrews 4:1-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12).
We believe the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in their original writings. We believe the 66 books of the Old Testament and the New Testament are God's complete and sufficient revelation and therefore carry God's authority for the total well-being of mankind (Psalm 119:97-104; Psalm 119:160; Matthew 5:18; John 5:46-47; John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:15-16).
We believe man was created in innocence under the law of his Maker, but by voluntarily transgressing, fell from his sinless and happy state. Consequently, all mankind is sinful. All people are sinners, not only by inheritance, but also by their own choice and therefore are under just condemnation without defense or excuse. We believe that without exception, every man and every woman is totally depraved and needs a Savior (Genesis 3:1-6; Romans 3:10-19; Romans 1:18, Romans 1:32).
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice. We believe that each person who by faith receives Him as personal Savior is justified on the basis of Jesus Christ's shed blood on the cross. Each person who receives Christ as personal Savior is born again of the Holy Spirit and thereby becomes eternally secure as a child of God. We believe the Holy Spirit baptizes each believing person into the body of Christ at the moment of salvation and that there is no second baptism of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:37-39; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 12:13).
We believe in the resurrection of the crucified body of our Lord Jesus Christ, His ascension into heaven, and His present life for us as High Priest and Advocate (Acts 1:3; Acts 1:9; Hebrews 7:25-26).
HEAVEN, HELL, and the RETURN OF CHRIST
We believe in the blessed hope: the personal, premillennial return of the Lord Jesus Christ. His return has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We believe in the bodily resurrection of both the saved and the lost. The saved are raised to eternal, conscious bliss in heaven (Matthew 25:34; John 14:2; 2 Corinthians 5:1; Revelation 2:7). The lost are raised to eternal torment in hell in conscious separation from God (Matthew 8:12; Matthew 10:28; Matthew 13:49-50; Mark 9:47-48; Luke 12:5; Revelation 21:8).
Upon accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, a believer becomes part of His body, which is the church. There is one church universal, composed of all those throughout the world who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The Scriptures command believers to gather in order to devote themselves to worship, prayer, teaching of the Word, observance of the ordinances (baptism and communion), fellowship, service to the body through the development and use of talents and gifts, and outreach to the world in fulfillment of the command of Christ to disciple all believers (Ephesians 5:23; Romans 12:1; Acts 2:42-46; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Matthew 28:18-20).
Wherever God's people meet regularly in obedience to this command, there is the local expression of the church under the oversight of elders and other supportive leadership. The church's members are to work together in love and unity, intent on the ultimate purpose of glorifying Christ (Ephesians 4:16).
Realizing that the cause of Christ extends beyond any one local fellowship, we commit ourselves to an ongoing ministry of extending the call of Christ to make disciples around the world (Matthew 28:19-20).